WBEZ | Lake Michigan http://www.wbez.org/tags/lake-michigan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Great Lakes brace for more toxic algae http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 <p><p>It&rsquo;s spring, and the heavy snowmelt and rain is good news for farmers and scientists who have been worried about drought the last few years. But all that water has other consequences for the Great Lakes, including runoff: rainstorms carry fertilizer from farms and lawns into streams and rivers.</p><p>Much of it eventually ends up in the lakes, and when too much accumulates it can feed huge blooms of toxic algae. The problem is especially dire in Lake Erie around Toledo, Ohio, where algal blooms in 2011 and 2013 were some of the worst on record.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen the lake go from where you weren&rsquo;t even supposed to go swimming in it to what it&rsquo;s like today, and the change has been phenomenal,&rdquo; says Tim Robinette, a Toledo-area resident and longtime fisherman. &ldquo;There were places that used to literally dump their waste in the river, and it used to float on down the river back in the &lsquo;50s and &lsquo;60s. And that don&rsquo;t happen anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie became infamous for its contamination after the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cleveland.com%2Fscience%2Findex.ssf%2F2009%2F06%2Fcuyahoga_river_fire_40_years_a.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFrwLjBkRSrEfOZxS0CiBu_HPNmSQ">Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969</a>; the lake&rsquo;s notoriety is credited with inspiring the passage of the federal Clean Water Act as well as the creation of Earth Day. And Lake Erie&rsquo;s comeback has been equally legendary: point source pollution from factories and sewage systems was cleaned up to a great extent by the 1990s.</p><p>In the 2000s, though, algal blooms began to reappear in the lake, bringing with them dead zones, bad smells and water that was once again risky to consume even in small amounts. In 2011, following a spring of particularly extreme rains, the algae blooms in Lake Erie grew to more than 5,000 square kilometers&mdash;three times the previous record. That got the attention of the International Joint Commission, the U.S. and Canadian body that has monitored the lakes for more than a century. They worked on <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">a major report</a> released this spring urging states and provinces to take immediate action to curb runoff.</p><p><strong>The green goblin</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Well, it looks kind of like green goo, you know, like thick, like pea soup-type green,&rdquo; says Carol Stepien, a biologist at the University of Toledo&rsquo;s Lake Erie Center, which overlooks the Maumee Bay.</p><p>The gooey muck she&rsquo;s talking about is blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which, when it&rsquo;s overfed by fertilizers in the water, can grow into blooms that are dangerous to drink or even touch. In recent years cyanobacteria has poisoned multiple pets who drank from the lake, and last summer it <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.toledoblade.com%2Flocal%2F2013%2F09%2F15%2FCarroll-Township-s-scare-with-toxin-a-wake-up-call.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFoUOuLh5_aFgTbMxEWSmrMHbEGTA">shut down a water treatment system in a township near Toledo</a>.</p><p>When the algae decomposes there&rsquo;s another problem: it eats up oxygen, and that creates dead zones in the lake where no fish or plants can live, an effect called hypoxia.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy%20of%20DSCN1768.JPG" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" title="The Maumee River runs from the west through Toledo and into Lake Erie, carrying fertilizer runoff from rural and urban sources with it." /></div><p>Stepien explains that the Maumee River, a large river that runs through the middle of Toledo and into the bay, carries fertilizer runoff from up to 150 miles away. The Maumee Bay is a particularly warm, shallow part of the lake, and as runoff gathers, the algae becomes a well-fed monster.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t some mysterious green goblin. Stepien says the problem can be traced primarily to phosphorus, an ingredient in commercial fertilizers that&rsquo;s also found in manure, and sewer overflows from municipal water systems. The trouble is identifying and stemming the sources of the phosphorus.</p><p>&ldquo;This is water that&rsquo;s coming in from many many places, it can&rsquo;t be pinpointed to a single pipe or certain pipes,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><strong>Golf greens can&rsquo;t be brown</strong></p><p>Sources can&rsquo;t be pinpointed individually, but the potential sources are widely known. Among them are lawns and golf courses that use commercial fertilizers. Just a couple miles away from the lake, there&rsquo;s a golf course right along the river.</p><p>&ldquo;Golf courses get a bad rap for the leaching issue,&rdquo; says Tim Glorioso, the golf course manager at the Toledo Country Club. He admits people who come here don&rsquo;t want their greens to be brown, and a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eifg.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F07%2Fgolf-course-environmental-profile-nutrient-report.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEgmkTGFSZ4oHA9FXxlx8sHFw-UGg">2009 survey of golf course managers</a> found the average golf course puts down 65 pounds of phosphorus per acre each year, and even more pounds of nitrogen.</p><p>Glorioso, though, says he uses a lot less.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy of DSCN1661.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Tim Glorioso is the director of golf course operations at the Toledo Country Club." />&ldquo;With the way budgets are right now, why would you go out and put more phosphorus down and more nitrogen than you need to? It doesn&rsquo;t make sense, economically,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Glorioso monitors the phosphorus in the soil constantly, and says he only puts on the amount the grass can absorb. Timing matters too &mdash; simple stuff like not putting down nutrients on frozen ground, or right before a storm. He attends continuing education classes during the winter months and thinks responsible management practices can lessen golf courses&rsquo; contribution to the algae problem. But he admits that not everyone is quite so diligent.</p><p>&ldquo;We have some people that probably don&rsquo;t do what they&rsquo;re supposed to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Some farmers resist regulation</strong></p><p>Most of the area that drains into the Maumee River isn&rsquo;t golf courses or suburban lawns: it&rsquo;s farms. There are miles and miles of them &mdash; mainly corn, wheat and soybeans &mdash; from Toledo all the way up the Maumee River and its tributaries, which extend into Indiana and Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;We could argue back and forth about is it urban, is it yards, is it agriculture, is it municipal water systems,&rdquo; says Tadd Nicholson with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. &ldquo;I prefer to say it&rsquo;s all of those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Corn has been booming recently due to ethanol production, so farmers are planting to the very edges of fields, and at least some of them are laying the fertilizer down thick. But Nicholson says the corn industry is producing more corn per acre while also using less fertilizer than it did a few decades ago. In other words, corn can&rsquo;t be solely to blame for the resurgence of algal blooms. And, like Glorioso, he says education and voluntary programs to reduce runoff are as beneficial for the industry as they are for the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;If we can show farmers how to minimize phosphorus runoff, it&rsquo;s not a hard sell, it&rsquo;s something that we are very motivated to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that over-applying fertilizer isn&rsquo;t against any laws in Ohio, and agriculture in particular has long been <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.epa.gov%2Fsites%2Fproduction%2Ffiles%2F2014-03%2Fdocuments%2Fcwa_ag_exclusions_exemptions.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFYv09n7PPIYQ7Xb7QphYUC8zJFTA">exempted from aspects of the Clean Water Act</a>; the industry has also pushed back against water quality regulations for runoff. There&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Faglaw.osu.edu%2Fblog%2Ffri-01242014-1326%2Fohio-senate-approves-agricultural-nutrient-management-bill&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGZUgzhOTYx7EZmczbUTnJ4dMfOqg">bill pending in the Ohio legislature</a> that would require agricultural users of fertilizer to apply for a permit. It has the support of the Ohio Farm Bureau, but not the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. And even that law is not really a set of rules but a required educational program. In Illinois, a 2010 law restricting the use of phosphorus in fertilizer exempts farms and golf courses.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy%20of%20DSCN1775.JPG" title="Runoff into the Maumee River comes from diffuse sources: urban stormwater and sewer overflows, agricultural runoff, and private lawns and golf courses." /></div><p><strong>&lsquo;When you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Cities like Chicago and Toledo are under federal order to reduce sewer runoff&nbsp; through extensive infrastructure upgrades, and manure runoff, which is also a contributor, is more tightly regulated than farms. The IJC report finds the need for more research and monitoring to establish clear best practices for reducing runoff from all sources, and the agriculture industry in particular has posited the need for more research as a reason to hold off stringent regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;We would never allow a dump truck full of manure to back up and dump into the lakes,&rdquo; says Lana Pollack, the U.S. chair for the IJC. She refutes the idea that there&rsquo;s not enough research to take action on the issue. &ldquo;The science is there, we understand the cause, we understand the effect, and we understand that no one should have a choice whether or not to harm Lake Erie or any of the other lakes.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie is far from the only body of water that&rsquo;s been affected: smaller lakes throughout the region have seen algae blooms in recent years. Last year, the bay of Green Bay Wisconsin was literally green. And there may not be an algae bloom off Chicago&rsquo;s Navy Pier yet, but that&rsquo;s because <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fillinois.sierraclub.org%2Fconservation%2Fwater%2Fnutrients.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNH9Lknjq4XxrRhehMxjWLvrrn85Lw">most of Illinois&rsquo; runoff drains to the Gulf of Mexico</a>. In the past, that&rsquo;s helped create a dead zone there larger than the state of New Jersey. Smaller lakes and ponds throughout the midwest are susceptible to algal blooms during the summer months.</p><p>Climate change is also intensifying the algal blooms. Algae prefer warmer temperatures, and more intense rainstorms mean more intense runoff.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">IJC report</a> recommends that Ontario, Canada and the states in the Lake Erie basin set new targets for reducing phosphorus runoff in Lake Erie. That could lead to more regulation on farms as well as septic system owners and urban water treatment systems.</p><p>&ldquo;One community shouldn&rsquo;t be able to decimate the resources that are so important to everyone,&rdquo; Pollack says. &ldquo;If you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart.&rdquo;</p><p>She also says there&rsquo;s no silver bullet, no single solution or single cause. There was <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.discovery.com%2Fearth%2Fweather-extreme-events%2Fsnowfall-setting-records-in-major-cities-140405.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGXFiLMKp6e_QuEL1trGFNCQURulg">a record amount of snow and ice this year around Toledo</a>, and it&rsquo;s all been melting, running off and bringing phosphorus with it.</p><p>Back down on the Maumee river bank, cold, clear water rushes out of a broken drainage pipe and into the river. In a couple hours, it&rsquo;ll be in Lake Erie.</p><p><em><a href="http://wyso.org/people/lewis-wallace">Lewis Wallace is a reporter for WYSO</a>, the public radio station for Dayton, Springfield and Yellow Springs, Ohio.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by the Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 15:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 BP contains oil spill in Lake Michigan, begins cleanup http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/puente whiting.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>WHITING, Ind. &mdash; BP says it has contained and is now cleaning up crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan&nbsp; from its Whiting, Indiana refinery near Chicago.</p><p>The spill was detected about 4:30 Monday afternoon.</p><p>Reminiscent of the tar balls collected off the Gulf Coast after a different BP spill a few years ago, this one was confined to a shallow cove between the massive refinery and a steel mill.</p><p>BP spokesman Scott Dean said it appears the crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant adjacent to the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;We were able to quickly deploy our oil spill response contractor and we&rsquo;ve seen the leak stopped yesterday and we&rsquo;ve got a containment boom in place that&rsquo;s holding the amount of oil that was released from the discharge into this cove,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said there have been no injuries, and cleanup activities along the 2,700 feet of affected shore line are still going on.</p><p>&ldquo;The good news is the leak stopped and we&rsquo;ve got it contained,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said the cold temperature of the lake and air may have actually aided in containing the oil, turning the crude oil into like a gel-like substance.</p><p>But questions remain about how the crude oil got into the lake in the first place.</p><p>BP just completed a $4 billion modernization to the 100-year-old Whiting Refinery, the largest inland refinery in the United States.</p><p>Sources helping with the cleanup estimate about a dozen barrels of crude spilled into the lake, with some containing what&rsquo;s considered sweet crude oil and some containing oil from Canada&rsquo;s tar sands region.</p><p>After discovering the discharge, BP notified the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Representatives from the agencies were at the refinery Monday evening.</p><p>BP says it will continue to work in full cooperation with the agencies to ensure the protection of personnel, the environment and surrounding communities.</p><p>The U.S. EPA says is unaware of any other spills from the refinery.</p><p>Mike Beslow, the onsite coordinator for the EPA at the scene, said the oil spill should not affect the quality of Lake Michigan&rsquo;s drinking water.</p><p>He says it appears the oil was released from one of BP&rsquo;s separators into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says the separator is like a holding pond and normally does not have oil in it.<br />He adds that BP&rsquo;s own systems immediately detected oil that got into the water filtration plant and into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says it&rsquo;s too early to determine if any fines will be assessed against BP for the spill.</p></p> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 How much road salt ends up in Lake Michigan? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curiuos City podcast includes an audio story about road salt. It begins 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)</em></p><p>Aaron Stigger is a graphic and web designer born and raised in Oak Park. He caught Curious City&rsquo;s attention with <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1522" target="_blank">this question</a>:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><font><font>How does all the winter salt runoff affect Lake Michigan&#39;s water?</font></font></em></p><p><font><font>But he </font></font><em><font><font>really </font></font></em><font><font>piqued our interest after telling us the backstory.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;On my way to work everyday I pass by this gi-normous salt pile, which is kind of plopped down on some dirt and some broken-up cement,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That kind of got me thinking: Well, if it&rsquo;s seeping into the ground under this big, uncovered pile, what is it doing, all the salt we distribute all around the city?&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=41.954739%2C-87.79664800000002&amp;cbp=%2C65.45%2C%2C0%2C9.139999&amp;layer=c&amp;panoid=S-PkH0iF7NxMblex4A7Wog&amp;spn=0.18000000000000152%2C0.30000000000001953&amp;output=classic&amp;cbll=41.954739%2C-87.796648" target="_blank"><font><font>The particular mound of salt</font></font></a><font><font> that Aaron saw is in Dunning, a neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. That mound&#39;s got company: Chicago stores 19 piles of salt across the city. And that&rsquo;s not counting many more spread across the suburbs and Northwest Indiana.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But is there really a wall of brine heading to the lake and, if so, should we be worried? We found out that, at least according to a few environmental standards, Lake Michigan is actually in much better shape than Stigger expected. But another waterway may have earned his concern.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Just how much salt are we talking about, anyway?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before we get to specifics on any effects on Lake Michigan, let&rsquo;s put the amounts of road salt we use into perspective, at least when it comes to Chicago.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Since November 2009, the city has spread an average of 215,456</font></font>&nbsp;tons of salt to melt snow and ice each year, according to figures provided by The Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation:<a name="chart"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/CbhQh/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="350"></iframe></div><p><font><font>That&rsquo;s counting this winter,&nbsp;</font></font><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637" target="_blank"><font><font>which has been particularly brutal</font></font></a><font><font>. As of February 28, the city already dumped more than 370,000 tons of salt on city streets &mdash; a solid 42 percent more than the next heaviest use in the previous five years.</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20stigger%27s%20salt%20pile.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 525px; margin: 5px;" title="The Chicago salt pile that Oak Parker Aaron Stigger sees on his way to work. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" /></div><p><font><font>It&rsquo;s not just a problem in Chicago. Humans move a lot of salt. A 2004 study estimated that we mobilize more than 140 teragrams &mdash; that&rsquo;s 140 billion kilograms &mdash; of chlorides every year.</font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><font><font><strong>Video: </strong><a href="#video">Just how big are these salt piles</a>?</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Salt&rsquo;s destination: our streams and rivers</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So, with some of these figures in mind, let&rsquo;s consider the effects.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; came about when he saw one of the city&rsquo;s salt piles while it was uncovered. It&rsquo;s a reasonable concern, given that researchers from the University of Rhode Island </font></font><a href="http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ww/Publications/Chlorides.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font>estimate uncovered salt piles lost about 20 percent</font></font></a><font><font> of their salt each year. Much of it ends up in nearby waterways.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most piles are covered during the off-season, however, so salt used for deicing is the main source of urban chloride pollution. Chemists know salt as NaCl, or sodium chloride, which breaks down in water. Hence there are pollution measurements and standards for &ldquo;chlorides,&rdquo; not &ldquo;salt.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But where&rsquo;s this runoff headed? The hydrological lay of the land is such that most salt-laden runoff in Chicago ends up in the Chicago River and other inland waterways &mdash; not Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>The principal reason is that </font></font><a href="http://chicagopublicradio.org/story/should-we-reverse-chicago-river-again-95661" target="_blank"><font><font>the city reversed the flow of the river more than 100 years ago</font></font></a><font><font>, so most of our runoff ends up in the waterways that feed into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.</font></font><a href="http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/B/ISWSB-74.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font> A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found</font></font></a><font><font> road salt runoff and treated wastewater from the Chicago region are the dominant sources of chlorides in the navigable sections of the Illinois River, and two major tributaries in the Chicago region. The study says that number has risen steadily since about 1960.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;The lake doesn&rsquo;t receive very much input from stormwater from the city of Chicago,&rdquo; says Scott Twait, who works in IEPA&rsquo;s Water Quality Standards division. &ldquo;However with all the salting, all the road salt enters into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the Cal-Sag channel, and flows downstream to the Des Plaines River. And collecting all the runoff, the chloride levels can spike in those areas and get quite high.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>In high concentrations, chlorides can be toxic to aquatic life. But it&rsquo;s hard to tell how many times salt runoff from Chicago has caused toxic levels of chlorides in inland waterways, because the Illinois Pollution Control Board doesn&rsquo;t classify those waters as &ldquo;General Use&rdquo; waterways. Those waters are subject to Illinois&rsquo; 500 mg/L water quality standard. Instead, IEPA regulates &ldquo;total dissolved solids&rdquo; in Chicago-area waterways, lumping together chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals for a single reading. Chloride levels have spiked above 1000 mg/L in some inland waterways &mdash; twice IEPA&rsquo;s standard for most of the state.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Chicago-area waterways are the only ones in the state that aren&rsquo;t regulated by General Use standards. As Twait explained, that&rsquo;s because they were so polluted when the standards were set that they earned their own benchmarks. (You can see IEPA&rsquo;s </font></font><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/tmdl/303d-list.html" target="_blank"><font><font>full list of impaired Illinois waterways here</font></font></a><font><font>.)</font></font></p><p><font><font><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaron%20Stigger%20by%20Kurt%20Gerber.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 220px;" title="Aaron Stigger asked Curious City about road salt runoff. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" />&ldquo;Back in the 70s these were the only waters that were kind of beyond repair, as to their thinking back in the 70s, so they got kind of special standards&rdquo; Twait says. &ldquo;They really had no hope for them in the future.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But those waters are much cleaner now. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which handles and treats the region&rsquo;s combined runoff and sewer water, has improved its filtration methods. MWRD Spokeswoman Allison Fore &nbsp;says they&rsquo;ve adopted best practices suggested by the DuPage/Salt Creek Work Group for managing their roadways and facilities.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Twait says EPA is looking to bring Chicago-area waterways in line with the rest of the state&rsquo;s rivers and streams. If they update the water quality standards, he says, &ldquo;one of the things we know is that we&rsquo;ll have chloride issues in the winter time.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Regulators would come up with some kind of limit for chloride in Chicago-area rivers. That could make cities think twice before spreading so much road salt. It&rsquo;s much tougher for the EPA to regulate salt from so many spread-out sources (storm drains spread out across the city and suburbs) than from, say, a factory with a fallout pipe dumping salt into the river.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So our question asker Aaron Stigger is right to worry about salt runoff, but not so much in Lake Michigan. In Chicago&rsquo;s case, it&rsquo;s our inland waterways that are in trouble.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Corrosive chlorides and city infrastructure</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before it even gets into area waterways, salt works its way through the city&rsquo;s subterranean network of pipes. That can cause problems for the city&rsquo;s Department of Water Management, which provides drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs. They also deliver stormwater to MWRD for treatment.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Tom Powers, the city&rsquo;s commissioner of water management, says chlorides are at such a low concentration in Lake Michigan that his department barely takes note.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;It would require an incredible amount of road salt to affect Lake Michigan &mdash; that&rsquo;s a very robust system,&rdquo; Powers says. &ldquo;When we test [the water], it doesn&rsquo;t even appear on what we&rsquo;re testing for.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>The EPA&rsquo;s national drinking water standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, some 20 times higher than Lake Michigan&rsquo;s current concentration. Chicago&rsquo;s Dept. of Water Management, like many such agencies, adds water softeners that can include salt. But it&rsquo;s not enough to even approach the EPA limits.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But road salt can corrode the pipes that carry that water, exacerbating the stress that the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle puts on an aging network of water pipes that would stretch 4,500 miles if laid end to end. About 1,000 miles of those water pipes are 100 years old or older, Powers says. In 2009 the department had to repair 8,873 catch basins &mdash; more than twice last year&rsquo;s 3,647.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Development in urban areas makes the salt corrosion problem worse, by funneling more runoff into the system. Studies have correlated growth in chloride levels with the rate of urbanization, and even with miles of road in the vicinity of the waterway in question.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;While we are right to be cautious in applying &lsquo;common sense&rsquo; to such things,&rdquo; says Stephen McCracken, who coordinates the Conservation Foundation&rsquo;s DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, &ldquo;in this case the relationship seems quite straightforward with salt being applied to road surfaces, increased road density means a larger salt total applied, even at a constant application rate.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>So more development, more impervious surfaces, more runoff.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>A saltier lake?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So not much of that salt ends up in Lake Michigan. But there is enough runoff to register an increase in Lake Michigan&rsquo;s chloride levels since Chicago first started spreading road salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, says the current chloride levels in Lake Michigan are around 12 milligrams per liter.</font></font></p><p><font><font>That number has risen since widespread use of road salt began around 1960, according to</font></font><a href="http://www.saltinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><font><font> the Salt Institute</font></font></a><font><font>. Chloride levels in Lake Michigan rise about 0.1 mg/L each year, but they&rsquo;re still well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s 500 mg/L standard for &ldquo;General Use waters&rdquo;. Nationally, EPA&rsquo;s criteria for chloride toxicity</font></font><a href="http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/water/standards/ws_review.pdf?amp;tabid=1302" target="_blank"><font><font> are 230 mg/L over a four day average, or an hourly average of 860 mg/L</font></font></a><font><font>. (EPA is currently reevaluating that standard, which was first set in 1988.)</font></font></p><p><font><font>If you measure chlorides in Lake Michigan in the spring, however, you pick up all that winter road ice and runoff. Since 1980, springtime average chloride levels have risen almost 50 percent:</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/epa data salt.png" title="" /></div><p><br /><font><font>High chloride levels choke aquatic species that depend on a certain salinity to keep their bodies in equilibrium. Amphibians, like salamanders and frogs, are especially susceptible to chloride pollution. Many of them breed in temporary </font></font><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733769@N03/9396817314/" target="_blank"><font><font>vernal pools</font></font></a><font><font> that are cut off from other bodies water, and thus have no way to flush out excess salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>IEPA&rsquo;s Biggs says chlorides in Lake Michigan aren&rsquo;t threatening aquatic life. &ldquo;There are not significant concerns or actions being taken to reduce chlorides in Lake Michigan as they are still reading below the water quality standard,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;We do not feel that salt runoff from the Chicago area is a major contributor to the chloride levels in Lake Michigan.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Winter deicing is the major driver of high chloride levels in Chicago&rsquo;s waterways, but wastewater treatment also contributes. In the outfall of waste water treatment plants in DuPage County, for example, chloride levels are more than ten times higher than they are in Lake Michigan. Studies by the Illinois State Water Survey and MWRD sampled the water flowing out from MWRD&rsquo;s Stickney wastewater treatment (the largest such plant in the U.S.), and found median chloride levels of 145 mg/L, compared to 8-12 mg/L in Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most of MWRD&rsquo;s contribution comes from human waste itself, which contains chlorides. They also use ferric chloride to help filter wastewater &mdash; the chemical is useful for, among other eyebrow-raising processes, &ldquo;sludge thickening&rdquo; &mdash; but are moving away from that in favor of biologically-based techniques that would replace ferric chloride.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>If you can&rsquo;t beet &rsquo;em ...</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So what&rsquo;s the city doing to cut back on its salt use?</font></font></p><p><font><font>Dept. of Streets &amp; Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe says they train salt truck drivers to spread salt judiciously &mdash; that means waiting until plows have cleared most standing snow, since salt sprinkled on top of several inches of the white stuff won&rsquo;t do much. When the forecast calls for mild temperatures, salt trucks take it easy and let the weather do some of the work.<a name="video"></a></font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WphGL9fjbbo" width="575"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>City workers move salt at the depot at Grand and Rockwell (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</em></p><p><font><font>The city even enlists an unusual fruit cocktail of sorts to get more out of its salt: beet juice. It&rsquo;s full of sugar, and helps lowers the freezing point of ice. Mixing salt with molasses or another sugary substance can do the same thing. Salt solutions are good too, because they spread out easier than rock salt so they&rsquo;re more efficient. Wisconsin has started spraying cheese brine for similar reasons.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Typical salt (sodium chloride) is not effective in subzero temperatures, but other salt compounds can break ice crystals at lower temperatures &mdash; calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common substitutes, but they eat into concrete and metal faster than table salt. Right now the city uses sodium chloride.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s salt pile is probably going to exist as long as severe winter weather visits Chicago. But if IEPA ups the standard for the metropolitan area&rsquo;s inland waterways, he might start to see the salt disappear a little bit more gradually.</font></font></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/"><font><font>Chris Bentley</font></font></a><font><font> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at</font></font><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"><font><font> @Cementley</font></font></a><font><font>.</font></font></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 Fish and risks: Eating Lake Michigan catch http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an addendum that addresses a follow-up question we received via a comment. The current article addresses chemicals that are of concern to environmental agencies and that affect issuance of fish consumption advisories. The <a href="#addendum">addendum </a>addresses additional chemicals of concern.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Steve Ediger says he&rsquo;s not an avid fisherman, but he has cast a few lines. When he was growing up, his grandfather would take him fishing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.</p><p>About six years ago, he moved to Chicago&rsquo;s northernmost neighborhood of Rogers Park, where he sees people<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/fishing"> fishing</a> off Farwell Pier. It got him wondering about the fish those anglers catch, so he asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;What would it take for Lake Michigan fish to be safe to eat?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Ediger suspects Lake Michigan fish aren&rsquo;t entirely safe to eat, and he&rsquo;s not alone. With major cities and industrial centers like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay along its shores &mdash; as well as the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">refineries of Northwestern Indiana</a> &mdash; Lake Michigan is no stranger to pollution. To find out just how much of the stuff ends up in the fish we pluck out of the lake, I asked a few people with different angles on the situation. Turns out a lot of work goes into monitoring and disseminating information about contaminants in Lake Michigan fish. We find out which are most worrisome to fishermen and toxicologists, but also why you shouldn&rsquo;t let that scare you off eating fish entirely.</p><p><strong>A pro&rsquo;s perspective</strong></p><p>I put the question to someone who handles Lake Michigan fish every day: Joel Reiser, captain of the Chicago charter boat company<a href="http://www.bnrcharters.com/"> Brush And Roll</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty much everything is edible in Lake Michigan with moderation,&rdquo; he says. Reiser brings up to six people on chartered fishing trips in Lake Michigan, leaving from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912"> 31st Street Harbor</a>. They catch chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. His crew cleans and bags up to five fish per customer (only two lake trout), which they can take home to eat.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been eating fish from Lake Michigan and elsewhere since he was a child. That might worry some people who have heard unsettling things about Lake Michigan fish. One fish market I called looking for Lake Michigan fish told me to &ldquo;try to the cancer ward.&rdquo;</p><p>With <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/news/ct-met-great-lakes-plastic-pollution-20130807_1_lorena-rios-mendoza-lake-michigan-toxic-chemicals">stories of polluted waters</a> swirling, Reiser watches out for government-issued fish advisories and eats seafood in moderation. But he says fish from any waters can contain contaminants.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve never heard of anyone growing a third eye, you know, some of the jokes that are out there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I believe that it&rsquo;s safer. I believe the government does put higher standards on it, just as a safety precaution just to cover &mdash; no pun intended &mdash; their own tail.&rdquo;</p><p>It turns out, Reiser&rsquo;s basically right. In casting about for an answer to Ediger&#39;s question, we found out Lake Michigan&rsquo;s pollution problems aren&rsquo;t the whole story. The horror stories are overblown, but they&rsquo;re rooted in truth.</p><p><strong>(Fish) food for thought</strong><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/210637870/Lake-Michigan-fish-How-many-should-you-eat" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big fish graphic 2.png" style="float: right; height: 882px; width: 320px;" title="Click to download a printable version. (Graphic by Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></a></p><p>Tom Hornshaw, a toxicologist with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/surface-water/fish-contaminant-mon.html">fish contaminant monitoring program</a>,&rdquo; helps gather data that goes into those government advisories. Since 1974, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and IEPA have nabbed fish (mainly bass, channel catfish and carp)<a href="http://mercnet.briloon.org/projects/IL_EPA_-_llinois_Fish_Contaminant_Monitoring_Program/144/"> from 500 locations</a> in Illinois for contaminant testing. I asked Hornshaw point-blank: Is it safe to eat fish from Lake Michigan?</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;as long as you follow the various advisories that have been issued for Lake Michigan fish.&rdquo;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re wondering what Captain Reiser meant by &ldquo;moderation,&rdquo; you might start with the<a href="http://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/consumption.html"> general fish consumption advisory</a> from the Illinois Department of Public Health.</p><p>State agencies keep<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/index.htm"> a running list of current fish advisories statewide</a>, which vary by species and body of water. They also change over time. On a <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/lakemichigan.htm">page that&#39;s specific to Lake Michigan catch</a>, the agency provides warnings for&nbsp;10 fish species. The DNR doesn&rsquo;t recommend you eat any of them more than once a week, and some come with the unequivocal advice: &ldquo;<strong>Do Not Eat.</strong>&rdquo; This applies to lake-caught carp and channel catfish.</p><p>The advisories vary based on the fish&rsquo;s size, in some cases. Take the yellow perch,<em> Perca flavescens</em>. Fish less than 11 inches long, the Illinois DNR says, should be eaten at most once per week. But you should only eat perch larger than 11 inches once per month. Likewise lake trout, a popular sport fish can that grow up to three feet long, carries three tiers of advisories: less than 25 inches? One meal per month; 25-29 inches? Six meals per year; larger than 29 inches? Do not eat.</p><p>If you fish in Wisconsin, use that state&rsquo;s<a href="http://dnr.wi.gov/FCSExternalAdvQry/FishAdvisorySrch.aspx"> online query tool</a> to check on the water you&rsquo;ll be fishing. Indiana, too,<a href="http://www.in.gov/isdh/23650.htm"> updates its fish consumption advisories online</a>.</p><p><strong>PCBs: What&rsquo;s all the fuss about?</strong></p><p>One of the major culprits are a group of chemicals known as PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> are a group of man-made chemicals useful in a variety of industrial processes</a>, including the insulation and cooling of electrical equipment. EPA banned their use in 1979, after it was widely recognized PCB pollution had caused skin conditions and immune system disorders. Studies have also linked the chemicals to cancer. We produced more than one billion pounds of the stuff in the U.S., about half of which made its way into the environment.</p><p>They take a long time to break down, so PCBs are still prevalent in the environment.<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/waukegannorthharbor.htm"> There is a specific advisory for Waukegan North Harbor</a>, where Outboard Marine Corp.<a href="http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/14980816-418/waukegan-harbor-pcb-mess-finally-getting-scrubbed.html"> dumped PCBs</a> as a byproduct of their manufacturing process. That cleanup is ongoing.<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-07/news/ct-met-waukegan-harbor-cleanup-20120907_1_susie-schreiber-cleanup-sites-epa-remedial-project-manager"> EPA is dredging the harbor</a>, a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/" target="_blank">Superfund site</a> once called the &ldquo;world&rsquo;s worst PCB mess.&rdquo;</p><p>But PCB pollution continues long after its source is cut off. PCBs still find their way into the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> through a process called<a href="http://www.epa.gov/glindicators/air/airb.html"> atmospheric deposition</a>. They travel around the world through the atmosphere, falling out of the sky at high latitudes. That&rsquo;s why scientists have found high levels of the stuff in the Arctic, thousands of miles from the factories that pumped out PCBs in the 1970s.</p><p>At this point Hornshaw, the EPA toxicologist, says atmospheric deposition is probably the primary source of PCBs in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a>. He says there&rsquo;s a simple, one-word answer for what it will take for Lake Michigan fish to become safer for consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Time,&rdquo; he says. Not 10 years, but less than 100. These chemicals take a long time to break down, but they&rsquo;re not invincible. Beth Murphy, who manages EPA&rsquo;s Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance program, passed along this graphic showing PCB declines against a 1994-95 baseline (the red line):</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/trout%20chart.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="" /></p><p>The graph suggests that by 2035, assuming progress continues, you should be able to eat all the Great Lakes lake trout filets that you want without fear of PCBs.</p><p>Lake and river sediments are especially good at holding onto PCBs, so bottom-dwelling fish tend to have higher levels (hence the &ldquo;Do Not Eat&rdquo; advisory on carp and channel catfish in Lake Michigan). PCBs also accumulate in fatty tissues, so it&rsquo;s important to filet wild-caught fish properly before eating them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20cutting.gif" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><p>PCBs aren&rsquo;t very soluble in water, so swimming isn&rsquo;t going to result in dangerous exposure.</p><p><strong>Getting the good stuff</strong></p><p>It turns out Captain Reiser&rsquo;s suspicion that government agencies were covering &ldquo;their own tail&rdquo; is correct.</p><p>&ldquo;The advisories may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and for adult men,&rdquo; reads<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> an FAQ from the Illinois Department of Public Health</a>. That&rsquo;s especially true for<a href="http://www.epa.gov/hg/exposure.htm"> mercury &mdash; a potent pollutant found in fish from Lake Michigan and around the world</a>.</p><p>Fetuses, nursing babies and young children are especially vulnerable, so the advisories are drafted with a low tolerance for risk. Mercury can severely hinder development of the fetal nervous system. EPA found<a href="http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/fishadvisories/technical.cfm#tabs-4"> mercury levels in women of childbearing age dropped 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000</a>, but it&rsquo;s still a concern.</p><p>But eating fish has a lot of health benefits, too, so long as you don&rsquo;t exceed the advisories. Eight Great Lakes states are two years into a study funded by the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> Restoration Initiative, weighing the benefits of eating fish against the risks. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to come up with ways of incorporating the benefits of eating fish along with the deleterious effects,&rdquo; Hornshaw says, &ldquo;so we can have a more focused advisory.&rdquo;</p><p>Pat McCann, a fish advisory specialist with Minnesota&rsquo;s Department of Public Health says it&rsquo;s important to keep in mind the big picture.</p><p>&ldquo;The benefits do outweigh the risks if you eat fish that are low in contaminants,&rdquo; McCann says. &ldquo;So the challenge is to get people information about which fish are low in contaminants, and get it to them in a way that&rsquo;s understandable and that they can adopt in their normal life.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of people swear off fish altogether, but McCann says that&rsquo;s actually counterproductive. Take the group of people most sensitive to mercury contamination: pregnant women. Mercury impairs neurological development in fetuses. But the McCann says that doesn&rsquo;t mean women should avoid all fish entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;Women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to eat fish, because fish have Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good nutrients, and it&rsquo;s a good source of protein,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And so those things are good for the baby. So if they stop eating fish that&rsquo;s a negative thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Concentrations of mercury and PCBs are above guidelines for walleye and lake trout in all of the Great Lakes. Mercury levels were getting worse in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie when <a href="http://binational.net/solec/sogl2011/sogl-2011-technical-report-en.pdf">EPA and Environment Canada released their 2011 &quot;State of the Great Lakes&quot; report</a>.</p><p><strong>Reeling it in</strong></p><p>One place you&rsquo;ll find Great Lakes fish on sale in Chicago is Market Fisheries at 7129 S. State St., in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/greater-grand-crossing"> Greater Grand Crossing</a> neighborhood. They&rsquo;ve been owned and operated by the Brody Family since 1957.</p><p>Curtis Alexander, the market&rsquo;s manager, shows me around. The market&rsquo;s busy. People pull numbers and step up to order catfish or perch, while an employee behind the counter scales and hacks up fish.</p><p>Alexander says their suppliers are mostly based in Canada, so they don&rsquo;t sell Lake Michigan fish. But they&rsquo;ll gladly clean your catch.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of time I clean fish that people go and catch from Lake Michigan,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You got the yellow lake perch over there, you got the little bluegills, walleye pike, you know bigmouth bass &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot of fish that they catch from Lake Michigan. People go fishing, they bring them in here, sometimes we clean it up for them.&rdquo;</p><p>No one brings in fresh-caught fish from Lake Michigan while I&rsquo;m there. But trout fishing season in Illinois starts April 5, and Alexander may have new customers soon. IDNR added four new areas for rainbow trout fishing this year, including Chicago&rsquo;s Wolf Lake&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-can-you-hunt-chicago-108954">one of two hunter-friendly oases in the city proper</a>.</p><p>Our question-asker, Steve Ediger, knows a few people who might take advantage of that new fishery. In an informal survey of his fishing friends, Ediger found that concerns over PCBs and mercury aren&rsquo;t deal-breakers for avid anglers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll tell you the one thing everybody says,&rdquo; Ediger says. &ldquo;They were less suspect of the fish they catch than the fish they get in the supermarket.&rdquo;</p><p>Mercury and PCB pollution are problems for fisheries all over the world &mdash; not just Lake Michigan. Clean-up efforts here have come a long way, but new pollutants could set us back. A BP refinery in Northwest Indiana <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">came under fire last year</a> when it missed a federal deadline to put in place new pollution controls for mercury (state regulators gave them an exemption).</p><p>And if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-carp">the threat of invasive species like Asian carp</a> proves as devastating as some studies predict, Great Lakes fisheries could collapse whether or not we continue to clean up the water.</p><p>So, a corollary to Tom Hornshaw&rsquo;s one-word answer to our question: What will it take to make Lake Michigan fish safe to eat? Time, and our attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="addendum"></a>Addendum: other chemicals</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Mercury and PCBs are the major chemicals that Illinois&rsquo; state EPA tests for and regulates, but <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/monitoring/fish/">there are other contaminants worth considering</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many other chemicals meet the two main criteria for raising fish contaminant concerns: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-54783_54784_54785_54800-256866--,00.html">they&#39;re bioaccumulative and persistent</a>. That means they build up in the tissues of aquatic organisms, and they stick around. They can broadly be categorized by the term the EPA uses, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/international/toxics/pop.html">persistent organic pollutants</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Besides mercury and PCBs, a few other common contaminants fit the bill: pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, and dieldrin; and dioxins, a carcinogenic group of chemicals created in the course of many industrial processes. (Dioxins are chemically similar to PCBs, which could themselves be counted under that blanket term.)</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Great Lakes environmental agencies <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">have tracked the dilution of another potentially harmful contaminant</a>. A group of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) were phased out starting in 2004. Measurements by Environment Canada <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">show</a> declines in PBDE concentrations across the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, but Illinois EPA doesn&rsquo;t track PBDEs in fish. As toxicologist Tom Hornshaw explains, the reason isn&rsquo;t lack of concern &mdash; it&rsquo;s lack of funding.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Currently PBDEs are not addressed in our fish advisory program&mdash;our lab is not set up to do PBDEs and it would require purchase of an expensive piece of equipment to analyze for them,&rdquo; Hornshaw writes in an email.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s important to note in this addendum that the chemicals we&rsquo;re phasing out now don&rsquo;t disappear immediately. That&rsquo;s why they call them persistent pollutants. PCBs, DDT and other chemicals in the Great Lakes are contaminants largely inherited from a time roughly 50 years ago. We have to wonder what legacy today&rsquo;s garbage will have on future Great Lakes residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Already <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/31/us-usa-pollution-greatlakes-idUSBRE96U03120130731">tiny plastic beads pose a threat</a> to fish health and environmental quality in the region.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 Have your say: Lake Michigan vs. Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/132056571&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note:&nbsp;</em><em>Reporter Chris Bentley provided question-asker Devon Neff and his friend, Abby Ristow, with some homework; the idea was that reporting and insightful interviews could settle the pair&#39;s high-minded water fight. In the <a href="https://soundcloud.com/curiouscity/smackdowns-lake-michigan?in=curiouscity/sets/curious-city-podcasts" target="_blank">&quot;Smackdowns&quot;</a> podcast episode, you can hear the friends&#39; final take. In most circumstances, Curious City encourages peace among our readers, but here we hope you&#39;ll keep the fight brewing by voting in our </em><em><a href="#Poll">poll</a>&nbsp;and encouraging others to do so. <a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Current results</a>&nbsp;</em><em>are available if you&#39;d like to remain a bystander!</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>Like so many questions for the ages, this Curious City query started as a bar debate. Our questioner Devon Neff and his friend Abby Ristow wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Which is more important to Chicago (historically and today): Lake Michigan or the Chicago River?</em></p><p>Even though they&rsquo;ve argued this since last April, the issue still isn&rsquo;t settled.</p><p>&ldquo;She took the river and I took the lake, and we were very adamant about our discussion at the time,&rdquo; Devon said. &ldquo;I just see the lake as being more of an asset to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>His view of the lake from his apartment in downtown&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/aqua-tower" target="_blank"> Aqua Tower</a> might be a factor in his opinion. Abby acknowledged the river&rsquo;s got a bit of a checkered past (<a href="http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/09-16-2009/There_are_still_bubbles" target="_blank">bubbly creek</a>, anyone?), but she said that isn&rsquo;t the whole story.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve used it so much that we&rsquo;ve almost gotten it to the point of ruin. But I think it&rsquo;s changing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;For me it&rsquo;s changing, but I&rsquo;m always a cheerleader for the underdog.&rdquo;</p><p>Whenever possible, we at Curious City like to settle things, but it&rsquo;s hard to be definitive in this case. Our editor, Shawn Allee, has been pulling his hair out over how broad this question is. And Devon and Abby&rsquo;s seemingly ironclad positions changed throughout our initial interview.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m actually torn,&rdquo; Devon admitted as we wrapped up the discussion. &ldquo;The more and more I think about it, I&rsquo;m really not sure if I&rsquo;m for one or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Abby chimed in with a similar equivocation: &ldquo;I think specific to Chicago the river has more of an impact. But the region? The lake.&rdquo;</p><p>Almost <a href="#Audio">everyone we talked to</a> &mdash; shipping people, environmentalists, kayakers, even Mayor Rahm Emanuel &mdash; was hard pressed to pick one over the other. Even those that were for the lake or the river usually added the caveat that we&rsquo;d be remiss to discount the other entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the confluence between the river and the lake, and the connection we could make to the Mississippi River that was what was important,&rdquo; said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.</p><p>So we&rsquo;re acknowledging right up front that the lake and the river work together, inextricably. Still, we need an answer.</p><p>So, what to do? Well, we&rsquo;re going to let you settle this one &mdash; with some help. We&rsquo;ve gathered facts on the waterways&rsquo; relative importance to our city and region below, as well as words of wisdom from a few people who work with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lake-michigan" target="_blank">Lake Michigan</a> and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-river" target="_blank">Chicago River</a>.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s how you can help:</p><ul><li><p>Read and listen to the evidence: <a href="#Water">Water</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Shipping">Shipping</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Pop">Pop culture and symbolism</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Recreation">Recreation</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Natural">Natural resources investment</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Infrastructure">Infrastructure investment</a>. (For folks who love audio homework, we have <a href="#Audio">interviews with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others</a>)&nbsp;</p></li><li><p>Participate in <a href="#Poll">our poll</a>!</p></li><li><p>Call our hotline: 1-888-789-7752. (Leave concise comments, please. Who wins: The lake? The river? Why?)</p></li><li><p>Leave a comment at the bottom of this page.</p></li></ul><p><a name="Water"><strong>Water &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; width: 50px; height: 50px;" title="" />Before we dive in too deep, the lake has one very big thing going for it; namely, it&rsquo;s the region&rsquo;s principal source of drinking water. More than 26 million people drink from the Great Lakes, including residents in Chicago and many of its suburbs.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But the river has also served an important purpose: In addition to connecting Lake Michigan to inland waterways, it&rsquo;s long served <a href="http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-86-reversal-of-fortune/" target="_blank">as an engineered extension of the city&#39;s sewer system</a>. Its<a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank"> famous reversal in the 19th century</a> enabled the continued growth of a metropolis on the make that might otherwise have choked on its own waste. (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/jeanne-gang-and-henry-henderson-conversation-steve-edwards-94213" target="_blank">There&#39;s talk now of re-reversing the river</a>, which some say could spur another revitalization.)</p><p>So both serve a vital function to the city&rsquo;s daily life.</p><p><a name="Shipping"><strong>Shipping</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river 2.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />&ldquo;I would answer that from a broad and multi-state/national perspective, there is no doubt that the Lake itself is far more significant,&rdquo; said Stuart Theis, executive director of The United States Great Lakes Shipping Association. &ldquo;That said, certainly [the Chicago River] has much to do with commercial activity which takes place in Lake Michigan and in particular, Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago River<a href="http://www.navigationdatacenter.us/wcsc/webpub11/Part3_WWYs_tonsbycommCY2011.HTM" target="_blank"> saw more than 2 million short tons of cargo in 2011</a>, the last year for which data is available. Chicago is only the 34th most trafficked port in the country based on total cargo, but it is the second most popular in the Great Lakes (Duluth-Superior on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is 21st in the country, with 35 million tons in 2011 compared to Chicago&rsquo;s 20 million). A lot of the bulk freight traffic at Chicago&rsquo;s port actually moves between the city and inland ports, staying out of the Great Lakes entirely. In 2011 Chicago handled about five times as much domestic freight as foreign.</p><p>But with highways, railroads and two major airports nearby, the port of Chicago could support more waterborne movement of cargo. In July Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2013/july_2013/mayor_emanuel_governorquinnannouncenewportauthoritymanagmentplan.html" target="_blank"> announced plans</a> to spend $500 million updating the Port District over the next 10 years.</p><p>The connection between the river and the lake is still critical for shipping. Hear more from Delbert &quot;Del&quot; Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing, Inc. in Lemont, Ill:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118317&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Pop"><strong>Pop culture and symbolism</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />The river is on <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d2/Chicago-muni-flag.png" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s flag</a>, in the form of two horizontal blue stripes. It&rsquo;s also the inspiration for<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-municipal-device-citys-symbol-lurking-plain-sight-107637" target="_blank"> the Y-shaped &ldquo;municipal device&rdquo; found throughout the city</a>, including on the Chicago Theater marquee and inside the Cultural Center.</p><p>Hollywood also loves the river. Of course, the Blues Brothers <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTOg4aYGtdY" target="_blank">jumped the Chicago River</a>. And in <em>The Hunter (1980)</em>, actor Steve McQueen&rsquo;s last flick,a driver<a href="http://www.marinacityonline.com/history/you_parked.htm" target="_blank"> famously flung a green Grand Prix Pontiac off the 17th floor of Marina City</a>, plunging it into the water.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/JFEELqtNzGE" width="420"></iframe></p><p>Director Andrew Davis featured the river in <em>The Fugitive</em> as well as other films. He waxed poetic about this for the documentary <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252319/" target="_blank">Chicago Filmmakers on the Chicago River</a></em>. &ldquo;Almost every movie I&rsquo;ve done has shown some part of this river just because it is a vein of life in the city,&rdquo; Davis told documentarian D.P. Carlson. &ldquo;I think that showing the bridges, and the roads, the major roadways and the river is part of the blood of the city. It makes the city tick.&rdquo;</p><p>That visual fascination doesn&rsquo;t end with the pros. The tag &ldquo;Chicago River&rdquo; on the photo sharing site Flickr<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/chicagoriver/" target="_blank"> returns nearly 34,000 results</a>. &nbsp;&ldquo;Lake Michigan&rdquo; turned up more than 256,000, but that isn&rsquo;t specific to Chicago. &ldquo;Chicago Lakefront&rdquo; produced 2,269 uploads. But maybe people are using different tags (and just &ldquo;lakefront&rdquo; is too generic).</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Skyline shots often include the lake &mdash; say, from the popular photo spot in front of the Adler Planetarium &mdash; and Navy Pier, the state&rsquo;s biggest tourist attraction, is obviously lake-centric. The river does host the very popular architecture boat tours, though.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Recreation"><strong>Recreation</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Biking and jogging<a href="http://www.choosechicago.com/articles/view/The-Lakefront-Trail/454/" target="_blank"> along the 18-mile lakefront trail</a> is one of the more popular activities for tourists and locals alike, at least when the weather&rsquo;s nice. Beaches along Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-has-chicago%E2%80%99s-coastline-changed-over-decades-104328" target="_blank"> &quot;forever open, clear and free&quot; shoreline</a> are packed during the warm months, a unique condition Joel Brammeier, president of Alliance for the Great Lakes, pointed out while singing the lakefront&rsquo;s praise.</p><p>Brammeier said the open lakefront is &ldquo;the envy of communities around the world.&rdquo; But it only got that way because of a series of careful decisions:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />A lot of people still cringe at the thought of Chicago River water, but its quality has improved dramatically in recent decades. Since the Clean Water Act of 1972,<a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2009/08/the-chicago-river-is-too-dirty-to-be-useable/" target="_blank"> the number of fish species in the river has gone from 10 to 70</a>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency approved Illinois&#39; new water quality standards</a> for the river recently, requiring the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to start disinfecting the waste it pumps into the sanitary canal.<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-03-21/can-cultural-resources-help-spur-different-future-chicago-river-97515" target="_blank"> The river should even be clean enough to swim in by 2016</a>!</p><p>Our question asker Abby Ristow has kayaked a few times, but I asked Ryan Chew, who founded Chicago River Canoe &amp; Kayak in 2001, how recreation along the river has changed since then. He said it&rsquo;s up dramatically, and he thinks that&rsquo;s because the river provides an unexpected connection to nature in the middle of the city:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118169&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>Margaret Frisbie from Friends of the Chicago River made a similar point about seeing the city from the lake and from the river. She admitted the view from the lake captures Chicago&rsquo;s grandeur. But she says the river provides something different and, perhaps, more valuable:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118321&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Natural"><strong>Natural resources investments</strong></a></p><p>Recently, several groups have called attention to the economic benefits of investing in both natural resources.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/report-drop-money-river-watch-it-float-back-107107" target="_blank">A report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands said each dollar invested in the river provides a 70 percent return</a>.</p><p>Likewise <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2007/09/04gleiecosystem-austin" target="_blank">a Brookings Institution analysis</a> said fully implementing the Great Lakes restoration strategy, which includes cleaning up pollution and preserving fisheries, would generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.</p><p>Even though he picked the lake, Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out its value to the city is only guaranteed through constant and long-term investment &mdash; the kind he hopes the city will make in the river, too:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123134710&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Infrastructure"><strong>Infrastructure investments</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Plenty has happened along the lakefront. The 31st Street Harbor<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912" target="_blank"> opened in 2012</a>, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-30/morning-shift-revamping-lake-shore-drive-108220" target="_blank"> plans to revamp Lake Shore Drive</a> could include more park space, as well as additional routes for bicyclists. Some 600 lakefront acres formerly home to U.S. Steel&rsquo;s South Works plant could become a futuristic community that developers<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lakeside-development" target="_blank"> U.S. Steel and McCaffery Interests have dubbed Lakeside</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But there&rsquo;s obviously a lot going on with the river these days, too, and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the river&rsquo;s catching up. He has<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2012/october_2012/mayor_emanuel_announcesplanstocompletechicagoriverwalk.html" target="_blank"> called the river</a> &ldquo;our second shoreline,&rdquo; and plans to continue an ongoing shift from industrial land use to recreation along the river:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s much-touted plan to extend the riverwalk downtown is the clear centerpiece: between State and Lake Streets, six themed areas like<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheMarina.pdf" target="_blank"> The Marina</a> and<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheRiverTheater.pdf" target="_blank"> The River Theater</a> are meant to attract businesses and pedestrians and give the riverfront a sense of place all its own. Construction on that could<a href="http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/72708" target="_blank"> start soon</a>.</p><p>Three private developments where the main branch splits &mdash; Wolf Point, River Point, and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; all include landscaped parks at their bases, celebrating to varying extents their place along the Chicago River.<a name="Poll"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe>;</p><hr /><br /><h2><a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Selected poll results</a></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJQX25aMFUtdWpPcjE3OU1rUXJXNWc&transpose=0&headers=0&range=B1%3AC101&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"title":"Left vertical axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"animation":{"duration":500},"page":"enable","width":620,"pageSize":5,"annotations":{"domain":{"style":"line"}},"hAxis":{"title":"Horizontal axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,{"label":"","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":1}]},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Audio"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/16414907&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><br /><em>Chris Bentley is a reporter for Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 Lake effect: The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/lake-effect-chicago-harbor-lighthouse-108820 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P9300531.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 423px;" title="" /></div><p>I went on a lake sail earlier this week and the trip took us--and my camera--close to the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, the six-story lighted sentinel south of Navy Pier on the northern breakwater.</p><p>Built for the 1893 World&#39;s Fair, the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Chicago landmark. The 120-year-old structure is a reminder of the city&#39;s once-active shipping industry. The lighthouse was originally constructed at the mouth of Chicago River, then was moved to its current site in 1917. Today, the automatic lighthouse guides pleasure and tour craft in and out of the harbor.</p><blockquote><strong>Like what you&rsquo;re reading? <a href="http://www.wbez.org/donate" target="_blank">Help support WBEZ by making a donation today.</a></strong></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/250px-Chicagohbr.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 234px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p>This 1930 U.S.. Coast Guard photograph shows the still-young city growing up behind the lighthouse.</p><p>A cylindrical 48 ft. tall brick and steel tower, a boathouse and a fog signal building compose the lighthouse. The lantern atop the tower emits a red flash every five seconds. The lighthouse has been automatic and unmanned since 1979 and is partly powered by a set of solar panels at its base.</p><p>Lighthouses have been a crumbling and <a href="http://www.lighthousedigest.com/news/doomsdaystory.cfm">endangered breed</a> across the country in recent decades. But we&#39;ve still got ours.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P9300561.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 336px;" title="" /></p></p> Wed, 02 Oct 2013 06:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-10/lake-effect-chicago-harbor-lighthouse-108820 Swimmers warned of rip currents in Lake Michigan http://www.wbez.org/news/swimmers-warned-rip-currents-lake-michigan-108358 <p><p dir="ltr">Swimmers hoping to take a dip in Lake Michigan Thursday are being advised to watch out for rip currents and big waves.</p><p>The National Weather Service has issued a beach hazard alert until Thursday evening at 9pm. The Chicago Park District has closed down a handful of its <a href="http://www.cpdbeaches.com/">beaches </a>because of the rough surf.</p><p>Park District officials say as of 2:30 this afternoon, lifeguards hadn&rsquo;t spotted any evidence of rip currents, but were closely monitoring the waters.</p><p>Meteorologist Mark Ratzer says north and northeasterly winds of up to 20 miles per hour on the lake are creating waves around three to five feet tall. That can cause some problems for swimmers.</p><p>&ldquo;When the waves kinda move to shore,&rdquo; Ratzer says, &ldquo;And then it sloshes back toward the open water -- especially in the south end of the lake, along the Indiana shore where you have more of a sandy bottom and you get sand bars -- you can get kinda little channels that open up where the water moves back out to open water more quickly and people get caught in those.&rdquo;</p><p>Ratzer says swimmers who get caught should swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current.</p><div><span id="docs-internal-guid-72b1cbdd-5fa6-69cb-1086-62fc5f18429c"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</span></span></div></p> Thu, 08 Aug 2013 15:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/swimmers-warned-rip-currents-lake-michigan-108358 Water, water everywhere, but not enough to drink http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/water-water-everywhere-not-enough-drink-107361 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/watertower%20flickr%20willitrun.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="The water tower at Chicago and Michigan Avenues. This landmark building served as a pumping station, used to deliver water from the lake starting in 1869. (Flickr/Willitrun) " /></div><p>The story of Chicago&rsquo;s founding as a modern American city sometimes reads like the creation myth of some bygone animist religion. We were meant to settle here, the story goes, because this is the spot where the winding Chicago River empties cleanly into the great blue expanse of Lake Michigan. This is the place where the prairie meets the water, where the water meets the prairie.</p><p>Great news &ndash; especially the water part &ndash; for a booming metropolis, right?&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It would seem that Chicago would have no problem,&rdquo; said Northwestern University historian Carl Smith. &ldquo;Twenty percent of the world&rsquo;s surface water is right there. . . What more could you want?&rdquo;</p><p>Actually, Smith says, Chicago&rsquo;s natural landscape proved a huge disadvantage to early settlers.</p><p>The ground was soggy and drained poorly. The river deposited silt in the lake and made navigation around the mouth of the river nearly impossible. And crucially, the city made the grave mistake of dumping its waste and pulling its drinking water from the same source.</p><p>Can you say cholera? It took an outbreak of the waterborne disease (and the surfacing of dead bodies in the shore-side cemetery) for city fathers to figure out what a bad idea this was.</p><p>Smith has studied of what came next, and the resulting book, <em><a href="http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo15233177.html">City Water, City Life</a> (University of Chicago Press, 2013)</em>, outlines the Chicago&rsquo;s early attempts to build the kind of water infrastructure needed to support the Windy City&rsquo;s rapid growth.</p><p>The bigger Chicago got, the more desperate its water problems became. The city had 330,000 inhabitants by 1870, and over a million just 20 years later, making it the second largest in the country and ushering in a kind of urban density the country had never known.</p><p>You can&rsquo;t just let people fend for themselves at that point, Smith argues &ndash; especially if you need them.</p><p>&ldquo;As a matter of principle you cannot deprive people of water, and [in] practice you need these people, particularly to work the jobs in the city,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In the audio above, Smith explores Chicago&rsquo;s first few attempts to lick this problem. It&rsquo;s a shockingly juicy tale for a bit of urban planning history.</p><p>My favorite part? The one where fish came right out of the taps!</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Carl Smith spoke at an event presented by the Newberry in May of 2013. Click <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/city-water-city-life-water-and-infrastructure-ideas-urbanizing-philadelphia">here</a> to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 24 May 2013 15:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/water-water-everywhere-not-enough-drink-107361 MPC Roundtable — Immeasurable Loss: Modernizing Lake Michigan Water Use http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-roundtable-%E2%80%94-immeasurable-loss-modernizing-lake-michigan-water-use <p><p>During every moment of every day, northeastern Illinois is losing Lake Michigan water &ndash; and with it, the money rate payers contributed to pumping, treating and distributing this water. Yet while we know our region is losing vast sums of Lake Michigan water, and we know this inefficiency is costing us money, we do not have a clear picture of how much water or how much money we are wasting. The best available data suggest the problem is enormous &ndash; approximately 490 million gallons a week, enough water to fill more than one Willis Tower. However, the way Illinois grants Lake Michigan water permits does not capture data that identify the causes of loss and solutions to prevent it. That&rsquo;s just one reason why the Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources (IDNR) has proposed changing the permit process.</p><div>At this roundtable, MPC releases our paper <em>Immeasurable Loss: Modernizing Lake Michigan Water Use</em>, which supports IDNR&rsquo;s proposals and makes further recommendations for more efficient water use. The paper and the discussion provide up-to-date information on IDNR&rsquo;s proposals and an opportunity for frank discussion.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Panelists:</div><div><strong>Dan Injerd</strong>, Chief, Lake Michigan Management Section, Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources <strong>Michael Smyth, Sr</strong>. Manager of Field Services and Production, Illinois American Water <strong>Mike Ramsay</strong>, Public Works Supervisor, Village of Westmont <strong>Josh Ellis</strong>, Program Director, Metropolitan Planning Council.</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MPC-webstory_6.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><br /><br /><br />Recorded live Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at the&nbsp;Metropolitan Planning Council.</p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/mpc-roundtable-%E2%80%94-immeasurable-loss-modernizing-lake-michigan-water-use A push to stop wasting Lake Michigan water http://www.wbez.org/news/push-stop-wasting-lake-michigan-water-107046 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Water loss_130507_LW.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has proposed an update to the rules for diverting water from Lake Michigan. Northeast Illinois takes hundreds of millions of gallons of water out of the lake daily for municipal use and for diversion into the Chicago area waterway system, but a great deal of the diverted water actually escapes through leaky pipes.</p><p>&ldquo;We waste a lot of money pumping, treating, distributing water that never gets sold,&rdquo; said Josh Ellis of the non-profit Metropolitan Planning Council.</p><p>Ellis estimates that as much as 70 million gallons a day are lost to leaks in aging infrastructure across the region. That&rsquo;s the equivalent of a Willis Tower full of water every few days, a loss that may not be sustainable as the regional population grows or new municipalities in northeast Illinois move to using Lake Michigan water.</p><p>&ldquo;The time to start thinking and figuring out what needs to be done is now,&rdquo; said Daniel Injerd, the chief of Lake Michigan management for IDNR. &ldquo;We need, as an agency, to try to send a stronger message to communities to say it&rsquo;s really time to start looking at water loss.&rdquo;</p><p>IDNR is in charge of the permits for all Illinois entities who get water out of Lake Michigan, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and for the first time since 1980, the agency is proposing a significant change to the permitting policy. Rather than allowing a certain amount of leakage based on the age of the pipes in a village, town, or city, the new permitting process would require municipalities to account for all their water -- or submit a detailed plan for how to update aging infrastructure. Injerd says more than half of the 215 agencies that now have water allocation permits would be in violation of the leakage limits under the new rule.</p><p>The revised water diversion rule also includes more strict limitations on sprinkler use and requirements for water-efficient plumbing in new construction. Finally, the proposed documents suggests, but does not require, that municipalities adjust the price of water to reflect the real cost of moving and treating water and of upgrading water infrastructure.</p><p>Ellis thinks the proposed changes should go even further.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now most water rate systems don&rsquo;t generate enough revenue to cover the full costs of providing water services,&rdquo; said Ellis. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re paying for the pipes, the pumps, the chemicals, the electricity...we feel that IDNR, through its permit conditions can prompt more municipalities to develop rate systems that generate enough revenue to pay for these things.&rdquo;</p><p>Short of raising prices or pulling from other revenue sources, right now municipalities have to seek out state loans to support infrastructure upgrades.</p><p>But Injerd says IDNR is not planning to impose requirements on water pricing.</p><p>&ldquo;Probably most of our permittees think that&rsquo;s not an area we need to delve into,&rdquo; said Injerd. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really not our role as a state agency to set water rates. But I have no problem recommending that communities develop a water rate that represents the true cost of providing a water supply.&rdquo;</p><p>A 1967 Supreme Court decision limited Illinois&rsquo; water diversion from the lake, and it&rsquo;s the role of the DNR to see that what the state pulls out doesn&rsquo;t exceed that limit. A full quarter of the water diverted by Illinois is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-announces-new-flood-control-project-some-say-plans-need-adapt-climate-change-106791" target="_blank">stormwater runoff</a> that would have been returned to Lake Michigan via the waterways before the Chicago River was engineered to flow out of the lake in 1900.</p><p>Public comment on the <a href="http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/WaterResources/Pages/LakeMichiganWaterAllocation.aspx" target="_blank">proposed water allocation rule change</a> is open through the end of May, and the Metropolitan Planning Council will be holding an <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/event/219" target="_blank">event Tuesday May 8</a> to discuss Lake Michigan water loss.</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">@lewispants.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 07:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/push-stop-wasting-lake-michigan-water-107046